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How to Interview and Hire Star Players

Smart business owners know that their profitability depends on how they hire, train, and retain star players. That process begins with identifying exactly what top talent actually looks like.

Pre-Interview: Define Clear Expectations

Before you even move into the interviewing process with a specific candidate, you need to define clear expectations. You don’t want to make the common mistake of leaping into an interview without fully understanding what is required of the potential new hire.

Here’s what I see way too often. The business owner doesn’t make the time to define the skills and characteristics needed to fit the job.

Unless you have an HR specialist on board, you’re more likely to hire someone you “like” in the interview.

If you want to increase your chances for a successful new hire, begin by sitting down and making a list of the skills required to effectively do the job. Once you’ve identified the skills, define the type of person you’re looking to hire. By this I mean, what are the characteristics you’re looking for in order for this person to fit into your company culture?

Knowing whom you’re looking for will increase your pool of super stars and it will also make the interviewing process much easier because you won’t be wasting time on people who don’t fit your criteria.

Remember this: expectations that are never set are never met.

Typically, it only takes a few short weeks for both parties to become disenchanted with a poor fit. You don’t want to be one of those employers who creates a revolving door of hires and fires.

Here’s a few more suggestions to get you moving in the right direction.

The Interview: Best Practices

Define Non-Negotiables

Before the interview begins, write down the non-negotiables. What are the things that the interviewee might say or do that would be a deal breaker for you? Clarify these components in your own mind and on paper.

Remember, an early red flag will soon be a blaze of rage if you’re not careful. Maybe you’ve been annoyed or even burned by people who talk too much or who make disparaging remarks about their previous employer. Whatever the scenario, take the time to note the types of things that people do or say that are not compatible with your business culture.

Have these concerns written out in front of you during the interview and watch for signs of these behaviors or beliefs. We tend to ignore our own intuition during an interview. Far wiser to train yourself to pay attention to the early warning signs.

Write and Role Play

Even if you’re skilled at interviewing, it’s wise to have a list of questions written out and prepared before the interview. You want to have some questions specific to the position and some that are more closely linked to the candidate’s resume.

Two of the general questions I like to use are, “What’s the one reason you’d stay with a company? What’s the one reason you’d leave?” You’d be surprised at what you can learn from these two simple questions.

Open-ended questions offer a glimpse into the character of the interviewee. You’ll get answers that help you discern if this is a fit.

You might also consider doing a little role playing with someone else just to make sure that the questions are getting to what you need to know. Candidates offer ramble on in an interview. The more pointed your questions, the better chance of meaningful responses.

I typically highlight 4-5 important questions that will help me make a decision. Sometimes the candidate answers your questions before they’re asked. I want to make sure that I get the answers to the most important questions so that I can make an informed decision.

Avoid Small Talk

Small talk is a diversion and it can keep you from discovering what you need to know about the candidate. You don’t want to allow trivial conversations to take over the interview.

Give yourself a certain amount of time for personal connection. For example, I recently interviewed someone and quickly discovered that we are both former equestrians. We naturally laughed about our love of horses for a few moments and moved on. You’re looking for what you have in common, but you don’t want to let that part of the conversation over run your ability to conduct a proper interview.

Don’t Sell, Engage

The interview process is designed to determine a fit. No matter how desperate you are to fill this position, you want to maintain control of this process.

Salary is only one criteria for why people accept a position. Define your culture. What’s your USP? What does your business have to offer? Why is this a great place to work?

Don’t just offer up a litany of benefits. If you’ve asked the right questions and paid close attention to what is important to the candidate, you’ll know how to tailor your offerings to what they’re looking for in this relationship.

For example, one of our candidates recently mentioned that safety was important to her. I described how our systems are designed to protect our talent from a cut-throat environment that would undermine her individual sales and marketing efforts.

One of the benefits of our culture is a collaborative team experience. That benefit never changes. What changed was how I aligned that benefit with her need for safety in a sales organization.

Close the Interview

I find that people sometimes struggle with closing the process. You don’t want to leave the candidate hanging. Either extend an offer or set an exact date for circling around.

It’s important to remember that people who interview for a position in your company will share that experience with friends and colleagues.

Be prepared for the interview, ask relevant questions, listen and respond, and whether you hire the person or not, be sure to leave them with a positive experience. Even if this specific candidate is not a fit, you want them to exit as a positive ambassador for your company.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. August 4, 2015